Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The springboard for my investigation is John Hick’s theology of death or “par-eschatology” in Death and Eternal Life (1976), a postmortem soteriology rooted in Irenaeus’ teleological framework of person-making. I organize my project around the two constitutive aspects of human existence: time and space, or temporality and embodiment.
Regarding postmortem temporality, I present: 1) new scholarships in the New Testament, early Christianity, and Reformation studies, and 2) recent developments in ecumenical dialogues and the Justification-Sanctification Debate. Through this, I demonstrate a widely emerging emphasis–the centrality of sanctification in the Christian understanding of salvation. I argue that this crystalizing consensus lends logical support for Hick’s insistence on the non-finality of death in the grand temporal process of salvation.
Regarding postmortem embodiment (and embodiment in general), I introduce George Berkeley’s sacramental Idealism as a better alternative to Hick’s conception of the body under Dualism. I show how philosophical and theological difficulties in both the Physicalists’ and the Dualists’ explications of “resurrection” are resolved within Berkeley’s framework. Moreover, Berkeley’s version of embodiment not only does not contradict relevant Christian orthodoxies, it in fact better conveys their theological underpinnings. Lastly, I highlight the unique strength of Berkeley’s Idealism for understanding embodiment by describing: 1) how it helps overcome the current impasse between Dualism and Physicalism in the Mind-Brain Debate in philosophical anthropology, and 2) metaphysical writings of many founders of Quantum Physics which cast sympathetic votes for Berkeley.
In the constructive portion of my dissertation, I lift from the Scripture a biblical theology of death which consistently underscores the causal connection between sin and death, holiness and life, and sanctification and resurrection. I then clarify that these well-known biblical themes are not metaphorical but metaphysical: the causalities are immanent. My effort here is to explicate a Metaphysic of Sanctification based on Aquinas’ teleological ontology originated from Augustine’s earlier notion of evil as “non-being.” Overall, my dissertation is an attempt to respond to the continuous call for Christians to give a coherent and credible account of the Resurrection Hope (1 Pt 3:15-16) that is faithful to the Gospel and relevant for our time.
Zhao, Hongmei, "What Is Mortal Shall Be Swallowed Up by Life (2 Cor 5:4): A Critical and Constructive Engagement with John Hick's Theology of Death in Death and Eternal Life (1976)" (2016). Dissertations. 2159.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Copyright © 2015 Hongmei Zhao